Those were the words uttered by the stranger whom I bumped in to tonight. Strange how one event can possibly create a chain of events, but let me start at the beginning of the story.
In recent times, the topic of money and monetary issues has been on my mind a lot. How much do I save… how much can I spend? I’ve chosen to save at the expense of many other things I could probably have been doing. So it is for this reason that I’m extremely cautious when it comes to spending, and I mean everywhere.
I can remember recently going to the supermarket and thinking ‘I could just buy some food and keep it all to myself’. I was thinking this especially since the price of goods is ever increasing and that fact that my income isn’t all that big. More so than that, it’s the fact that I now pay for all expenses except my meals, electricity, land line and Internet (the latter three which are paid by my brother). This has also made me an extremely loyal House of Fashion shopper…
It was with this mindset that I was thinking of hoarding some food for myself, until I remembered something. When I was a little kid, whenever I got food at school (which we did frequently back then) like chocolates and stuff, I would always take it back home and split it with everyone. I always did this never really caring at the small portion I ended up with. It was at this point I thought ‘Shit… what the hell happened to me?’
I’ll tell you what happened to me. After years of experience and exposure to the world, things changed. Being overly generous meant that you would soon be taken advantage of. A lesson I learned quickly and as I grew older the value of money grew ever more prominent as did my attitude toward it.
Back to that time at the Supermarket, I made a choice to buy something that was large, and relatively cheap; ergo eatable by all. I consider that the right choice. So what happened tonight? I walked to the supermarket to pay my phone bill, and on the way out (I took a different route) I was stopped by this man on the road.
He told me a tale about how he had been waiting for some guy who owed him money and some tale about a passport. In a nutshell he was stranded without a bus fair for a medium distance destination. Mind you he spoke in English. I stopped and listened to this guy and looked at him. There was nothing shady about him, he seemed genuine. But then again sometimes real people appear shady because they are not used to asking.
This guy’s talk was good and if he was a conman his angle was excellent. He constantly said ‘If I am disturbing you, its ok’ in a kind of dismissive manner. Good move on his part if he was a conman. Now stopped and engaged by this man, I was wondering what to do, so I asked him how much he needed. ‘Go on… ask me for 500 bucks so that I can tell you go F yourself’. What did he ask for? Rs.32 plus an extra 6 to get to Town Hall to get the actual bus that he needed. I pondered this for a moment with the obvious question ‘Is this guy a conman?’ After some time I decided… ‘screw it, its such a small amount, though if he’s a conman he probably collects small amounts to add to big amounts.’
Still I opened my wallet and looked for change. I only had a 50 note and there was no way in hell I was going to give this guy extra. So I told him I had no change. He too pondered this for a second before suggesting that I could get the cash changed at a nearby store; there were plenty. More hesitation on my part. Again he says “If I am disturbing you…” I think some more and say ‘Fine… let’s go”.
The first shop refuses to change the money, all the while I’m looking at the store keepers faces to get some hint that this is somebody that they recognize. No sign. I report to the guy in a ‘oh well’ manner that they won’t change it. He suggests the adjacent shop and so I go there. The same story and again I look at the store keepers faces, but still no sign.
“Oh this is not my lucky day’ the guy says, while I’ve got an ‘oh well… that’s that; at least I tried right buddy?’ attitude. Then there’s more silence. He says ‘Please sir, if you can try one more store, otherwise its ok.’ I agree and we cross the street to go the last place. They change the money and I give him 30, followed by the last remaining 2 later. I did not give him the supposed 6 to go to Town Hall; he says it’s ok, that he can walk.
He shakes my hand and gives a very firm handshake – a purported sign of trustworthiness, but what does it matter if he’s a conman; he can easily generate that impression. I remain unconvinced. Then he left heading towards Town Hall on foot, I watched as he disappeared in to the distance. ‘Go on… hide somewhere, do something that tells me you’re nothing but a fraud!’ Nothing. He keeps on walking until I can’t see him in the dark. I stand there thinking ‘should I follow? Is he for real?’
In the end I realized that the incident was over and I went on my business. I walked onward to my original destination thinking all the while about what had happened. I pondered the man’s manner, I couldn’t sense any kind of fraud on him. Not like the incident that happened recently where someone asked me to buy something for them and that they would pay me back later. When I met this person they gave the absolutely classic I don’t have enough money for [insert here + show nearly empty wallet], can I pay you later?
This kind of thing is nothing new to me. Another person I knew who wanted to go for a drink and invoking the classic and normally agreed split the bill, except of course this person had a significantly larger part of the bill. I don’t say anything to these things, but I observe them. It’s very telling of a person in my opinion.
This I tie in to Horton’s last post, which I completely agree with. Everything we do is a choice, and my choice is that just because other people do things to me, doesn’t mean I do the same thing back. I hate vicious cycles and always want to break them. Furthermore the reason I gave the money to the man on the road as I mulled it over, was not because of some fear of a deity, or hell, or to feel good about myself. I gave it because I felt that I couldn’t take the chance that this was actually someone who was actually genuine, and that I would leave them stranded. Two hours later, I’m feeling strongly that the man was a conman (but I can’t say for certain). But what’s worse? Getting ripped by a professional or someone you know?